Hard sauce is a thick butter frosting or topping that goes with very rich plum pudding or figgy pudding. We use it with our sticky date cake. It is a very sweet rich topping that for some reason goes well on rich pudding or cake; it makes no sense but seems to work all the same. Most recipes include a “hard” alcohol component, which may be where the name comes from, but growing up our families just used a little vanilla.

Nowadays we do add some brandy and/or serve with an acid fruit on the side or dotted with aged balsamic vinegar to give more balance on the pallet. And citrus zest added goes well with our sticky date cakes. And remember a little hard sauce is all you need.


  • 1/2pound butter (2 sticks), softened (unsalted if you have it)

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • zest of one orange finely grated, optional
  • 1/8 (scant) teaspoon salt if using salted butter; 1/4 teaspoon with unsalted butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons brandy or vanilla (or blend of cream sherry and brandy or other liqueur), optional



Beat butter and sugar to fluffy. Add zest, if using, and salt. Blend. Drizzle in brandy. Set aside at room temperature until needed or refrigerate for later service. Be sure to bring to room temperature to serve.

Chef Note: Place room temperature hard sauce in pastry bag with large star tip to add decorative portion to each cake/pudding.


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